Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Week in Review - 24/8/08

  • Moonfleet (Fritz Lang, USA, 1955)
  • Fury (Fritz Lang, USA, 1936)
  • Du levande (You, the Living, Roy Andersson, France/Germany/Denmark/Sweden/Norway, 2007)
  • The Bank Job (Roger Donaldson, UK, 2008)

My only exposure to Fritz Lang is his most famous film, Metropolis, which I saw a few years ago at the Astor Theatre. This film, apparently the only one shot by Lang in Cinemascope, seems quite insubstantial to me. It looks very staged, like an adult form of children's pantomime. Maybe I'm not imbibing its historical context. I'm certainly interested in the history of cinema and Lang is a significant player in cinema's early history. Fortunately, the following Lang film screening at Melbourne Cinémathèque was more engaging.

The plot of this film is fairly implausible, yet somehow manages to grab the audience and take it on a ride. Fury raises some ethical and other issues and I found it enjoyable, though still not overly substantial.

You, the Living
This film, in Swedish, has a bleak aesthetic that really appeals to me. Urban decay is very photogenic, and the various characters that are shot in single takes (mostly with a static camera) match their surrounds. The director has employed a number of peculiar devices such as irony, black humour, surrealism and social observation that results in a highly original, engaging and entertaining film. I found it tender, sweet, moving and quietly subversive (especially a religious woman's praying for forgiveness for various sinners), without being overtly political in any way.

I loved the way characters from one scene would intersect with those from another. I also loved the way some minor details recurred. But my favourite parts were the recounting of dreams, where the surrealism came to the fore, especially with the girl and the guitarist. I was in awe at how one scene (from inside a 'train') was shot. Well worth seeing if you like films outside of the box, Scandinavian films and black comedies/dramas.

The Bank Job
I had free tix to see this as a MIFF member pre-MIFF, but couldn't fit it in. The missus didn't like the previous film as much as I so she took the call on this one. It has the fairly conventional structure of a heist film, yet manages to maintain a high level of interest for a number of reasons. First, it's genuinely more complex than most, and the complexity is believable due to the underlying facts that the story is based on, even if the bulk of the film is a fictionalisation (which one would expect, particularly considering the reported national security implications).

The Bank Job had my heart palpitating in suspense for nearly the entirety of its run time and my hands were sweaty. So I felt it did a good job of grabbing the audience. The end was a bit too twee in my opinion, trying to conveniently smooth things over for resolution. This is a minor point however, and didn't really affect my appreciation for the rest of the ride. This is a good mainstream film. It looks good, has believable and well-developed characters (mostly) and has some genuinely unexpected twists.


Syms Covington said...

You will be interested to know then that all the 'Trinidad scenes' in The Bank Job were shot just out of Melbourne.

filmnut said...

Paul, you should take a look at Fritz Lang's M which is far and away his bets film. A clear masterpiece.

Paul Martin said...

That's amazing Syms. I noted those scenes and wondered if they were actually in Trinidad. Who'd've thought it was Melbourne of all places. It seems a long way to come for such a small part.

Filmnut, I'd like to catch that on the big screen. I think the Astor screens it from time to time. Yes? This week is screening You Only Live Once + Dr. Mabuse (pt.1).

Paul Martin said...

BTW, Syms, do you know where "just out of Melbourne" it was?

Syms Covington said...

Not sure, but Pete Ford worked on the shoot, and has some more details on his blog here:

The film was co-produced by Sydney based Omnilab, so post was done out here (hence some Australian bands creeping into the sound mix, inclusing Melbourne band The Basics: playing tonight at the Hopetoun in Sydney!!) and thus some of the shooting.